Authentic brought the Triple Crown hopes of Tiz The Law to a shuddering halt with a tenacious victory in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
In a year that has seen a much-changed racing programme around the world, the Barclay Tagg-trained Tiz The Law came into the ‘Run for the Roses’ on the first Saturday in September rather than May, and having already claimed the Belmont Stakes – traditionally the final leg of the Triple Crown.
His victory there was followed by an equally impressive success in the Travers Stakes and he was sent off the red-hot favourite despite an unfavourable wide draw.
Authentic was even wider on his immediate outside, but after a slow start he got to the front under John Velazquez, although the market leader was never far away and joined battle at the top of the stretch.
It looked for all the world as if Manny Franco’s mount had done everything right and would power past – but Velazquez asked Authentic for everything and he refused to buckle.
In the end Bob Baffet’s charge was going away at line, giving the Hall of Fame trainer a joint-record sixth win in the race and Velazquez his third – together with a 200th career success at Grade One level.
It was an extraordinary few minutes for Baffert, whose other contender Thousand Words reared up in the parade ring and was scratched, while even in the winner’s enclosure afterwards Authentic became agitated and whirled round, knocking Baffert momentarily to the ground.
Happily, Baffert emerged unscathed and was quick to pay tribute to the ride of Velazquez.
He told NBC Sports: “I’ve had some great Derby rides, but today what that guy did, Johnny V, he rode the most incredible race. He had it all figured out, but he had the horse to do it.
“I’m just happy for all the connections.”
An emotional Baffert revealed his long-time assistant Jimmy Barnes had broken his arm in the incident with Thousand Words, and added: “What happened in the paddock to Jimmy – in this business you can go from the bottom to the top, the emotion that was running through my mind.
“I told Johnny ‘do it for Jimmy’. We were shouting ‘do it for Jimmy’ the whole way.
“I’m just glad that he won it for Jimmy.”